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On July 29, Governor Bruce Rauner signed HB 5729, the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act into law.

Advance Illinois, a bipartisan advocacy group, applauded Gov. Rauner for signing the bill, saying “it is the culmination of years of work with an array of cross-sector partners and is a transformative step toward achieving Illinois’ goal of 60% of Illinoisans having a postsecondary certificate or degree by the year 2025.”

In a prepared statement, Advance Illinois says:

This comprehensive legislation establishes four new initiatives to smooth the transition for students from high school to college or career. It helps students avoid remedial education in community college with a jointly-designed fourth year of high school math instruction. It establishes new career and college endorsements on high school diplomas to demonstrate that students have fulfilled specific requirements for that career path. To help students plan for life after high school, the bill establishes benchmarks from 8th through 12th grade for what students should know about college and career. Finally, it allows districts to pilot updated high school graduation requirements based on what students know and can do rather than what courses they have taken.

“We are thrilled to learn that Governor Rauner has signed HB5729 into law,” said Ginger Ostro, Executive Director of Advance Illinois. “HB5729 presents an array of options that school districts may use toward college and career readiness. The provisions in this bill will better equip students for college and for a successful career as we make progress toward our 2025 goal.” 

According to Advance Illinois’ The State We’re In 2014, just 37% of Illinois students who enroll in postsecondary education go on to graduate and approximately half of Illinois high school students who enroll in a community college require remedial education. Many students are not graduating with necessary skills to gain meaningful employment or enroll in credit bearing courses in college. Employers report that recent high school graduates often lack critical skills necessary to succeed in high-demand and growing occupational areas, and that they are unable to find qualified workers to meet their industry needs.

“The provisions in HB5729 were developed in partnership with an array of stakeholders, including legislators, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the business community,” said Rep. Kelly Burke (D-Oak Lawn), who sponsored the legislation in the House. “Aligning school districts, colleges, and employers will lead to the development and implementation of a robust and coordinated postsecondary education and career readiness system in Illinois.”

The PWR Act provides a detailed framework for aligning the needs of colleges and employers with high school instruction in Illinois. Each of the four provisions of the bill has individual implementation timelines. Advance Illinois will be working with the Illinois State Board of Education and stakeholder advisory committees to implement the new law. Most provisions of the law will be implemented by 2020.

 “Too often the expectations for what it means to be prepared for college and career are inconsistent and unclear, and students in Illinois are graduating from high school unprepared for their future,” said Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Skokie), who sponsored the legislation in the Senate. “HB5729 enables sensible curriculum choices, like offering math instruction for high school students that decreases the need for remedial classes in college.”

The following partners collaborated on the development and eventual passage of HB 5729 in recent years: the Illinois P-20 Council, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, ED-RED, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Manufacturers Association Education Foundation, Illinois PTA, Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Student Assistance Commission, Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University, Large Unit District Association, Ready Nation, School Management Alliance, Stand for Children, and Vision 20/20. 

“We’ve partnered with Advance Illinois to support high schools and community colleges from across our state that have been leaders in preparing their students for college and careers,”  said Jonathan Furr, Executive Director of Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University. “HB5729 enables this important work to scale for the benefit of all students in Illinois.”